Laissez les bon temps rouler

roosterswithbeadsOr, let the good times roll (but it sounds so much better in french!). Fat Tuesday — the culmination of Mardi Gras for the uninitiated — is this week.

We are getting ready to celebrate.

Fat Tuesday was essentially unremarkable in our household until our son began attending Tulane and we fell in love with New Orleans.

And how could you not? The food, the music, the Spanish moss, the St. Charles streetcar running from Tulane to Canal Street (I must have ridden it a hundred times, trying to take in every detail of those remarkable houses along the way), but most of all the joyful essence that permeates this city (not the Bourbon St. vibe, which is certainly something to see), but the live music that pops up everywhere, the funerals celebrated with a parade, the food, the food, the food.

But, I digress…

It’s time for a celebration. January & February have been gray and surprisingly snow-less in Chicago. The post-election hangover lingers on and spring is still several weeks away. So we invited a few friends to dinner on Fat Tuesday and unearthed our trove of Mardi Gras beads, except I think they call them throws.

img_1135I am cooking up a pot of gumbo and we have a genuine King Cake (Google is a wonderful thing!).

Although I’m not big on themed parties, Fat Tuesday calls for extra oomph. In my case that means purple, green and gold feathers and beads and a vintage New Orleans souvenir tablecloth I bought years ago for just such an occasion.

fattuestable

At the heart of it all, of course, are good food and good friends.

This is the lesson of New Orleans and good times, why would you just cook and serve dinner when you can add a few more beans to the pot, invite the neighbors, and make it a feast! The perfect antidote to gray days!

Happy Mardi Gras!

See you next time!

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Reading, writing and watching

books2Despite my angst (see my last post here) over gray January skies, I have kept myself busy lately with my nose buried in a few books, trolling the Internet and even caught a few current movies. I’ll save my Pinterest and Instagram revelations for a later date, but here are some good reads, good looks, and new ideas that caught my eye.   

My books-to-read list keeps growing…

Last month one of the book groups I belong to read and discussed The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. This is the story of a young Jewish woman raised on St. Thomas in the early 1800s. Rachel’s family is a pillar of their Jewish community, and strong-willed Rachel must conform to its conservative standards. What begins as a predictable struggle for independence evolves into a passionate love affair and a scandal that alienates her from the community. The story unfolds against the lush island landscape, with its own passions and mysticism. And, oh, yes, Rachel’s youngest son is artist Camille Pissaro, who ultimately must engage in his own struggles against conformity for the sake of his art. Like mother, like son?

What else have I read? Madame Bovary, because this same group likes to tackle a classic, and what a great discussion we had! (Start with this footnote: not only was this a very early novel, but it was originally published as a serial, chapter by chapter.) No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (disclaimer: I’ve read this before), about the Roosevelts and the homefront in the years leading up to and through WWII, because after the election I needed to read more substantive American history.

And, before you think I only read really heavy (boring?) stuff, I also just picked up What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, because I absolutely loved What the Husband Knew. Another book group is reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which has had rave reviews. My daughter recommends A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (he also wrote Rules of Civility, another great read) and I’m adding Recipe for Disaster by Stacey Ballis because Out to Lunch by the same author was so much fun (and her books always come with recipes)!

Everybody’s blogging about…

journalBullet journaling. Have you heard of this? I read about this first on Modern Mrs. Darcy, (a wonderful blog I found, initially, as a resource for readers, but it’s so much more.) I followed some of her links, and while I was mulling this over in my brain as a way to better manage the blog, I started seeing the subject pop up elsewhere.

It appeals to me for a couple of reasons. First, I think it may help me plan and track blog posts. But also, for some time now I have been looking for a way to document the books I read. This is mostly just for me, a way to look back over what I’ve read, what I liked (and didn’t like), favorite authors, thoughts on the book(s) and even comments from other readers or reviewers. I know this seems like a job for a database, but I’m old enough to appreciate and enjoy hand-written comments. The bullet journal encourages and facilitates the use of lists, perfect for lists of what I have read and what I want to read.

I am also notoriously disorganized. In my working days, my desk was the messiest in the office, though I always eventually found what I needed. But messiness is a time waster, looking for notes, resources, receipts, keys, etc. Bullet journaling is touted as way to address a certain level of disorder, without being burdensome or complicated. We’ll see.

Lately, I’ve been watching…

victoria“Victoria,” the new PBS series on Masterpiece. I have already admitted I love history and London (I binge-watched “The Queen”), so I was excited to see “Victoria,” and I have not been disappointed. Though we often think of Queen Victoria as a frumpy dowager dressed in black, mourning the loss of Prince Albert for decades, this is a young, flirtatious Victoria who suddenly finds herself on the throne. And, she is determined to be queen on her terms.

While we are talking about young women thrust into challenging positions, have you seen “Jackie”? Wow! Natalie Portman turns in a stunning performance. I am old enough to remember that weekend in November, and I’ve read a number of accounts of it since. But this is totally different. As a friend of mine pointed out, despite her sophistication and the cultured circles in which Jackie Kennedy traveled, she was very young and very sheltered, and not at all prepared to deal with this tragedy. I’m not sure this is flattering, but it’s potent.

Finally, “Hidden Figures” has been out for some time and gotten a lot of attention, but I need to throw in my two cents here and just say, see it. What a great story (and why we’re just learning it now is both a travesty and a whole other blog post!) and a great cast.

What about you, any interesting, thought-provoking or just plain fun finds lately? I’d love to hear!

See you next time!